THE close connection of this psalm with the preceding has been already noticed (see the introduction to Psalms 42:1-11.). We must not, however, suppose an accidental detachment. Rather Psalms 43:1-5, is a supplementary stanza, added subsequently by the same or a different writer. Being intended as a continuation, the psalm has naturally no title.
Judge me, O God (comp. Psalms 35:24). And plead my cause. (comp. Psalms 35:1). God's intervention is asked in the struggle between David and his enemies, on the assumed ground that he is in the right, and not they. God will, of course, only interpose if this is so. Against an ungodly nation; or, an unkind, unloving nation. Though called גוִי, as in Isaiah 1:4, still Israel is meant. They were "unloving," both towards God and towards their king. O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man. Either Absalom or Ahithophel may be meant; or "man" may be used abstractedly for David's enemies generally.
For thou art the God of my strength; i.e. the God in whom is all my strength (Psalms 28:7). Why dost thou cast me off? An equivalent to the "Why hast thou forgotten me?" of Psalms 42:9. Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? Repeated, with the variation of a single word, from Psalms 42:9.
O send out thy light and thy truth (Psalms 40:11; Psalms 57:3, where, however, "mercy ( חסד) and truth" take the place of "light and truth"). Both words equally signify God's favour. Let them lead me. As the pillar of fire and of the cloud led the Israelites into the promised land, so let God's "light and truth" now lead David back to Jerusalem and God's "holy hill of Zion." Let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles; or, thy dwelling-place. In his exile it was David's most earnest desire to revisit the tabernacle which he had set up on Mount Zion, where God's presence dwelt, and prayer was most acceptably offered (see 2 Samuel 15:25; Psalms 42:2). He had made his being brought back to it a test of the return of God's favour (2 Samuel 15:25, 2 Samuel 15:26).
Then will I go unto the altar Of God. As the special place where thanksgiving ought to be made, and sacrifice offered (see 2 Samuel 6:17; 1 Chronicles 16:1). Unto God my exceeding Joy; literally, unto God the gladness of my exultation. Yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God. The psalmist has before him some such scene as that depicted in 2 Samuel 6:1-23. and 1 Chronicles 15:25-29, where, amid shouts and singing and dancing, and "with sound of the cornet, and with trumpets, and with cymbals, with psalteries and harps," a joyful procession approached the tabernacle, David himself taking part in it.
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God. The refrain of Psalms 42:11 is here repeated totidem verbis; and the plaint of the exiled monarch is brought to an end. The burden of the refrain is hope and confidence. Notwithstanding the woes of the present, the writer has no doubt in respect of the future; he will yet have occasion to "praise" God, whom he feels to be "his God—his Health and Salvation.
God my exceeding Joy.
As the Bible teems with thoughts which never would have entered men's minds without Divine teaching, so also of feelings, which, had they not been real, men would never have aspired or pretended to. Among these is that "exceeding joy" in God which the text expresses. If it be true that "the fleshly heart is enmity against God," then this joy must be supernatural. But not unnatural. Only because man is fallen can it ever be natural to him to forget God, to be careless about his Maker. This joy is the returning of the heart to its original key-note.
I. THE REASONABLENESS OF THIS JOY. On account:
1. Of all that God is in him-self—his glorious perfection.
2. Of all that he is to us—to mankind; to his people; to each believer personally. "O God, my God!" We can say this, as Christians, with fuller knowledge, more glorious warrant. "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
II. HINDRANCES TO THIS JOY.
1. Poor, unworthy thoughts of God.
2. Forgetfulness, equivalent to temporary unbelief.
3. A murmuring, unthankful, discontented spirit, underrating our mercies and overrating or rebelling against our trials.
III. SHALL WE SAY THE RARITY OF THIS JOY? Let each one judge. At all events, its unspeakable desirableness. Both for the happiness and the usefulness of it; a powerful motive to holiness; a witness to others for God (Psalms 34:8; Psalms 66:16).
HOMILIES BY C. CLEMANCE
God the salvation of the countenance; or, a light heart makes a bright face.
Dr. Binnie remarks, "The forty-second and forty-third [psalms] (which go together), were almost certainly written by the Korahites who accompanied David in his flight beyond the Jordan during Absalom's rebellion." £ Nearly all modern critics consider that this and the preceding psalm formed originally but one. £ So the similarity of Psalms 42:5, Psalms 42:11 and Psalms 43:5 would suggest. There is a variation between some of the expressions in the former and those in the latter; but there is nothing in this psalm which needs elaborate explanation. There is, however, an expression in both of them, which contains in itself a doctrine of amazing depth, one of which thousands of living believers are perpetual illustrations and proofs, though, as a doctrine, it receives far too little notice. The doctrine is connected with the religion of the face, and is this—that when Divine light shines in the soul of man, it will cause a radiance all its own to beam from the countenance; that God is indeed the salvation of a man's features. An Irishman was once asked what made him look so happy after his conversion. "Oh," he said, "Christ lightens our hearts, and then he brightens our face." As Dickson quaintly remarks hereon, "As when the Lord withdraweth both the outward tokens of his favour and his inward consolation for a time, the countenance of the godly cannot but be heavy, cast down, and look sad, like a man that is sick; so when God returneth to comfort and to own his own, either both inwardly and outwardly, or inwardly only, the man's face looketh cheerful: he is the health of my countenance." £ The Rev. Joseph Cook, of Boston, U.S in a remarkable lecture on Solar Self-Culture, says, "There is only one form of culture that gives supremacy, and that is the form which produces the solar look; and the solar look comes only from the Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. It may be incontrovertibly proved, by the coolest induction from fixed natural law, that the highest culture must be that through which the solar look shines, and that this look is possible only when there exists in the soul glad self-surrender to the innermost holiest of Conscience. In that innermost holiest Christianity finds a personal Omnipotence." £ We are all familiar enough, indeed, with the generally admitted fact that the face is an index of character, but the truths underlying that fact demand from us closer attention than is sometimes given thereto.
I. IT IS AN ORDINANCE OF GOD, THAT IN A WAY EITHER OF MERCY OR OF JUDGMENT, THE FACE SHOULD BE THE INDEX OF THE SOUL. When Moses had been on the mount, communing with God, his face shone. When Hannah had laid her burden before God, her countenance was no more sad. When Stephen was before the council, in the midst of hostile, angry men, his face was as the face of an angel. The late devout Samuel Martin, of Westminster, had a face so radiant through fellowship with God, that when a friend had called on him with Dean Stanley, the dean remarked afterwards, "I am glad you took me to call there; I have seen the face of an angel." The truth that communion with God lights up the face is recognized by Dante, who, speaking of Beatrice, says—
" … with such gladness, that God's love
Seem'd from her visage shining."
To work out this thought on its darker side would be as terrible as on its brighter side it is enchanting. How are some faces that once bid fair to be beautiful, spoilt by the deeply graven lines of vice and crime! Our present theme puts before us, however, the brighter side, and it is one on which we may well love to linger. For note further—
II. THAT THE DEVOUT SOUL LOVES TO COMMUNE WITH GOD. The whole of Psalms 42:1-11. and 43, shows us this. And the experience of believers is perpetually verifying this, in prayer there is an upward look of the whole being. "Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul;" "Our eyes wait upon the Lord our God;" "I will lift up mine eyes to the hills." And in this uplooking of the man there is an entirely different set of mental and spiritual powers and energies at work than when the habit of looking downward or around, or even the habit of not looking at all, is in exercise. The soul is in communion with the best and dearest of Friends, enjoying a luxury of fellowship with which a stranger cannot intermeddle.
III. WHEN THE SOUL THUS COMMUNES WITH GOD, GOD SENDS HIS GIFTS DOWN INTO THE SOUL. God reveals himself within, and makes us full of joy with his countenance; and in revealing himself he brings with him purity, peace, and power; and when such privilege is realized, the outer discomforts of life are forgotten in a joy unspeakable and full of glory. The temptations of the evil one cease to have power when God is near; the heaviest toil can be undertaken, and the weightiest cross be carried with cheerfulness and even with song; and since by the law of association we grow like those we love most, we, beholding the glory of the Lord, shall be changed into the same image, from glory to glory!
IV. THE EFFECT OF ALL THIS WILL BE THE SALVATION OF THE FACE. Such is the remarkable expression in Psalms 43:5; it is translated, "the health of my countenance;" literally it is, "the salvation of my face." Even so Christ is—is now—the Saviour of the body, and in the emancipation of the spirit from sin he is redeeming the face from ignoble marks and traits. How often have we known a man's face marvellously changed at his conversion, not by evolution, but by regeneration. "He doesn't look like the same man!" is an exclamation often heard. A well-known minister was converted while preaching. Such a radiance instantly shone into his face, that an enthusiastic Methodist jumped up and exclaimed, "The parson's converted! The parson's converted!" A brave Scotch soldier, whose countenance rarely wore a smile, and from whose lips never a word was heard as to his personal religion, suddenly beheld the glory of the words, "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out;" and as suddenly radiance gleamed from his face, the padlock fell off his lips, and he exclaimed, "rye Christ by the hand! I've Christ by the hand!" And in his second volume the Rev. J. G. Paten, writing of a convert from heathenism, says, "His once sullen countenance became literally bright with inner light". See also 'Leaves from my Note-book,' by Rev. Wm. Haslam, p. 99. All the spiritual gifts which God bestows—joy, peace, purity, strength—will find corresponding expression in the lines and features of the countenance, giving demonstrative evidence of the present power of Divine grace even over the body, and yielding no dim prophetic forecast of the day when Christ shall alter the fashion of our bodies of humiliation, and transform them to the fixed type of his body of glory. Hence throughout the Book of Revelation, the purity of the blessed is indicated by their being robed in white, i.e. not the whiteness of snow, but the brightness of the star. If even here, with such partial sanctification, the bodily change is so great, what will it be when the purifying and glorifying processes are complete—when every soul will be full of love, and every' face will be a perfect index of the soul? How beautiful must faces be when perfect love is reflected therefrom!
V. THE SUBJECT IS NOT ONLY ONE OF GREAT DOCTRINAL INTEREST; IT IS ALSO FRAUGHT WITH DEEP PRACTICAL SIGNIFICANCE.
1. Let us cultivate the habit of observation, and make a religious study of the human face. The holiest men will never be mistaken for hardened atheists:
2. Let us each seek to realize the duty of letting the face speak for God. And it will, if we are constantly in talk with God. His peace, his purity, his power, imparted to the soul within, will certainly make their mark without.
3. Let the young take care of their faces. God made them to be beautiful, not with that beauty which is no deeper than the skin, but with the "beauty of holiness." Be true. Love and follow the right. Live to please God. In all your troubles speak to God. And your face wilt show the result; for God will be the "health of" your "countenance." Amen.—C.
HOMILIES BY W. FORSYTH
Strengthening the heart in God.
What Jonathan did for David when he went to him into the wood of Ziph, David does here for himself—he strengthens his heart in God (1 Samuel 23:16). "Hope in God." We learn here that—
I. HOPE IS BASED ON GOD'S REVELATION OF HIMSELF. We only know God as he is pleased to make himself known to us. In his works and in his Word we find the same character. The lesson comes to us from all sides that God is true, and that his laws should be trusted. Therefore we feel safe in putting ourselves in line with his will; in wholly surrendering ourselves to his guidance and keeping. Whatever may have been dark or dim in ancient days is now made clear in Christ. He hath revealed the Father. Therefore we say to our heart, "Hope in God."
II. HOPE IS CHARACTERISTIC OF THE RIGHTEOUS. We cannot hope in God till we are reconciled to God. Hope is not a chance thing, but born of faith. We cannot hope in God but as we are of the same mind with God. Hope is not an easy thing, but requires the putting forth of our own strength and will. "Like the highest forms of courage, it is a refusal to be borne down and cowed and depressed by evil—a refusal to indulge in the melancholy pleasure of looking and dwelling on the dark side of things." This is an achievement possible only to the righteous, who not only have faith in God, but are able to enlist imagination in aid of faith (Joel 3:16; 1 Peter 1:21).
III. HOPE IN GOD IS ESSENTIAL TO THE RIGHT DISCIPLINE OF LIFE. All kinds of trials come to us. There are troubles without and fears within. There are mistakes we cannot correct, losses we cannot repair, evils to ourselves and others sore to see, but sorer still because they cannot be remedied. Enemies rise up against us (Psalms 43:1). Our hearts are ready to fail for fear, and "for looking after those things which are coming." What are we to do? Shall we give way to despondency, and cry, like Jacob, "All these things are against me"? or shall we let Hope have her perfect work in calming and sustaining our souls? The answer is clear, "Hope in God." Thus we gain strength (Psalms 43:2); thus we secure guidance. God's good angels of "light" and "truth" will lead us in the right way (Psalms 43:3). Thus our path will be onward and upward, nearer to the serene heights and the pure air of heaven, where all is peace and love (Psalms 43:4).
IV. HOPE IN GOD IS A SURE PROPHET OF THE GOOD TIME COMING. Every hope is in a sense a prophecy. But often the prophecy is false. Bright gleams the vision in the distance, but nearer approach and closer scrutiny prove that it is a delusion and a snare. It is like the mirage, which leaves the desert all the barer and the gloomier when it fades into the light of common day. But it is otherwise with the Christian's hope. It is real. It stands inquiry. It verifies itself by the moral effects which it produces. All the future, onward into the vast eternal spaces, is covered by it; and to come. "Christ in us the Hope of glory!" "Thus living, eternal life is begun in our hearts; thus and thus only, under the teaching and moulding of the Divine Regenerator of our nature, does the heavenly life in time anticipate and herald and prepare for, and, blending with it, at last is lost in, the life of heaven for eternity" (Archer Butler).—W.F.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 43". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany